To Runes and Frost Indri: I hope I managed to write your characters convincingly
And I hope you like the short story
I tried to capture the mood, hopefully it's not too overly dramatic.
"Is that.. Lian, isn't that one of the daughters of the Ilharess?" Elif whispered urgently to her sister, pointing towards a group of people shambling out of the ruins of what had, to all of them, been home. At the front, a young woman wearing the ruling clan's colors walked. Her head was held high, her back was straight, but even Elif, who was not an empath, could see the loss she carried.
Lian'lae turned her head to look in the direction her little sister was pointing. A sense of hope and determination, tinted by worry and something between shock and confusion, flowed into her mind. She responded with affirmation, hope shadowing loss beyond words, before she remembered Elif, her last remaining sister, had never been a part of that special bond they all shared. "How could I have forgotten?
" she chided herself, feeling ashamed and a little embarrassed, but most of all, lonely. She nodded, a simple gesture, then weakly whispered a single word, fraught with hope and worry. "Shiir.."
Elif understood, and her eyes scanned over the drow closest to the young woman, then ranged further and further away, looking at all the empty faces, searching for those familiar steely green eyes. "I'm sure he's here somewhere, Lian." she lied, trying not only to sound confident, but to feel confident. You couldn't just lie
to an empath. She refused to speculate, to even think that he was dead, but even as she denied the thought, the vision that had welcomed her back to her home that one last time flashed in her mind, blood-drenched walls and the wild-eyed yet soulless stares of the dead bodies so carelessly flung around, slaughter with no purpose beyond serving death to the innocent..
"It would be so easy just to give up,
" Elif thought, and then imagined herself putting a torch to the thought and watching it burn and writhe and scream. "I refuse!
" she screamed in the face of the fire, and then had to smile at her little imaginary show of defiance. "Come, let's join them. If there's any future left for us, it is in a different place," she told her sister, voice steady and confidence renewed.
Lian'lae, not sure what to make of it, drank of her sister's confidence as if it were life-preserving water, letting it soothe her and reinforce her. They had never understood the youngest completely, instead of embracing her emotions Elif had reined them tightly, to a point where even their mother thought she was damaged. Still, she had persevered, and even in this darkest hour managed a brave smile Lian knew came from the heart. She held on to her little sister, a lifeline of light in an ocean of darkness, and they slipped silently into the group, making its purpose their own.
They had walked for a while, through the ruins marking places where people had lived, had gone about their daily lives. There was nothing left that wasn't burned or broken, bloodied or shredded into pieces. Lian, careful not to let the surrounding emotions flood her, was barely hanging on when she suddenly turned, facing something outside of the mass of refugees. "Our purpose is to provide healing,
" her mother's voice rang clear and strong in her mind. But she knew the truth: she was barely holding on, in her weakened state she would die. "Elif," she whispered, "There's someone over there who needs our help. Your help."
Ka'hab couldn't believe she wasn't dead. She was lying flat on her face amidst shattered pots, feeling oddly calm, as if she was still sleeping. Shards of fired clay poked her ribs, one had drawn a trickle of blood from her exposed belly, and another was dangerously close to her eye. Every time she drew a breath, the shards caressing her ribs dug into her skin, threatening to break it. "I'm breathing?
" she thought in wonder as she felt her lungs fill with air.
She became aware of a strange shuffling sound. Somewhere close, people were crying. Hoarse coughs, sniffles. One might think they had cried for hours. She could hear faint pleas, names cautiously called out in the hope of finding relatives, loved ones. And most prominently, the sound of shuffling feet, reluctantly taking their owners away from their broken homes.
Despite the peaceful state she was in, Ka'hab knew there was something wrong. "I must be delirious!
" she thought to herself, and with that realization she finally remembered. Someone had killed her people, destroyed her studio.. Someone had left her for dead, and had nearly been right.
"Didn't.. think to.. finish.. the job.. did you," Ka'hab growled, teeth exposed in a primal grin as she fought her way up from the ground, shards of her own pots breaking through her skin, and every movement a trial in itself. Barely on her feet, she tried to straighten up and screamed, knees buckling as the sword-wound in her back, which had nearly killed her already, broke open.
Ilrae'selyir hugged herself, trying to shut out the despair and loss surrounding her. Every time someone called out the name of a relative, trying to find someone familiar in the mass of refugees, she felt so aware of the finality of her loss. Her mother was dead, and she didn't have anyone to search for. She was dimly aware of the lady An'jhali walking at the head of their group, and knew she had made the right decision when she had joined this particular group of refugees. She had served the ruling clan as healer, it was only right that she follow its last heir into their forced exile.
She looked up, abruptly, as a scream of pain tore through her thoughts, and for a moment she was afraid the unknown attackers had followed. Around her, the other refugees kept on walking. Ilrae looked in the direction the scream had come from, and saw someone stumbling, trying to get up. Shocked, both at the apathy of those around her, and at self-preserving thoughts telling her to just keep moving, she took a better hold of her meagre possessions and took off, weaving through the crowd to get to the woman who needed her help. "We're not animals! What are you waiting for? Help her!
" she imagined herself shouting at the crowd, but wisely held her tongue. Of those she weaved past, many were already dead, they just didn't know it yet. She felt an icy chill run down her spine at that realization, and the offhanded way it had come to her.
It didn't take Ilrae long to reach the wounded woman. Ka'hab had managed to get off her knees, and was holding on to what remained of a doorframe, but she was bleeding badly, with no way to examine the wound on her back. "Please remain still," Ilrae told Ka'hab, with the authority of a skilled doctor subtly reinforcing her words. Closing her eyes, the healer empath focused on the injured potter, finding, to her relief, only one major wound.
"One moderately deep sword wound to the back, no important nerves severed, major blood loss.. Is anything broken?" a voice coming from behind the patient's back asked Ilrae. Her eyes flew open, fixing onto a pair of steady grey eyes. She must have looked panicked, for the stranger apologized immediately.
Elif looked into the unfamiliar healer's dark blue eyes, noting surprise, and curiosity. "I'm sorry for startling you. Please, are any of her bones broken? I can't do much about that." She had already begun knotting together the wounded potter's back, thankful that the wound was free of foreign objects, although not for the reason it was so. The potter had suffered major loss of blood, and with the reopening of the wound.. She could not afford to loose much more. Elif held the blood in check as she worked, just like in surgery, so focused she barely noticed the potter speaking up at the same time as the healer. "I .. don't .. think so," the potter said, barely above a whisper as she was only just holding on to consciousness, at the same time as the healer noted "Only a few minor fractures, I will see to them."
They fell silent, then, the two doctors working side by side while Ka'hab held on to the doorway for dear life. She thought she might have laughed at the absurdity of her situation. "Me, Ka'hab Indri the potter, with two doctors attending my wounds, after being left for dead.. I must still be delusional. I'm really still lying face down in the middle of my life's work, bleeding to death.
Yet she could feel them working, the weird icy shivers and an even stranger sensation of her flesh weaving itself back into one piece.. And she was nauseous, nauseous and light-headed, every move she had made to pull herself up that second time had felt like she was spinning out of control into a dark abyss from which there was no return.
Time passed, until she realized the weird sensations had stopped, and she opened her eyes to see the two doctors both looking expectantly at her. People still shuffled past, a short distance away.
"Can you walk?" Elif asked the potter, "We're leaving, you should come too." She tried to keep her voice steady, but she couldn't let the potter stay and die, she couldn't let anyone stay and die if she had any say in it.
Lian only nodded, supported by her little sister just to be able to stand. She didn't feel well, and she only had thoughts for her unborn child, and her missing mate.
"The youngest daughter of the ruling clan's Ilharess leads us," Ilrae added. Having someone willing and capable to take on the burden of leadership improved their chances greatly. "With her as our leader, we stand a chance."
"Can't argue with that," Ka'hab agreed. She wasted no time digging out what remained of her belongings, giving her wrecked studio a last glance, longing for what had been lost. Then the four of them joined the band of refugees once more, fading into the crowd, eventually loosing sight of eachother.
Ilrae'selyir still felt a little lost inside, but as she started making her way forward, she no longer felt entirely alone. She remembered the grey-eyed doctor's parting words, and as she found the energy to keep going she wondered if they'd meet again when lady An'jhali had found them a new home.
Ka'hab melted into the crowd, not entirely faceless now although she didn't know who they were, the doctors who had helped her. This was no time for introductions, not when you had lost everyone, and might stand to loose more still. She wasted no time, using what energy she had to walk further ahead, following the same advice from the grey-eyed doctor as Ilrae, only a short distance away.
"Don't fall behind. Walk as far towards the front as you can, and stay there. Survive."
Elif could hear herself saying those words as they parted ways, her voice almost feverish in its urgency, it's need to get that one point across. But Lian'lae was barely hanging on, even as Elif shifted most of her sister's weight onto her own shoulders. Unable to follow her own advice, Elif was scared, but put up a brave front, hoping her sister could hold on even as it was slowly becoming clear she was slipping. Determined not to fail, she pressed on, locking away all the bad feelings, an aura of purpose settling around her. At least they were keeping pace with the others.
"Don't fall behind."